I don’t like lists and rankings, the ordered ranking of riders never expresses the full excitement of a season’s racing. In some sports the rankings matter but in cycling the UCI rankings haven’t taken off as a measure of performance across the season.
Yet the rankings matter. As we’ve already seen, nations need riders with points to qualify for the World Championships. But the biggest change is coming for 2011, where the top-17 teams on the world rankings will gain automatic entry to the main races of the year. Here are the current team rankings:
As you can see the likes of Quick Step and Team Sky are hovering in a lowly position. The creation of the new Luxembourg team is likely to bump them down a notch, meaning they make the Vuelta a priority in order to ensure Ag2R-La Mondiale doesn’t use Arrieta and Nocentini to bag points, and that Cofidis too doesn’t see Moncoutié and Dumoulin as points grabbers. Sky should be able to pick up some points in the Vuelta but you have to wonder about Quick Step, given Tom Boonen’s still absent from the bunch.
Check out Vacansoleil too, for all their exciting racing they are low ranking, and if Devolder will help their cause, note the addition of Ricco brings no points, only suspicion.
Points mean prizes
These rankings see a return to valuing a rider by his points tally, teams wanting to qualify for the major races need riders with a haul of points, it should mean a closer correlation between UCI rankings and salary.
There are still plenty of races to go, including an entire grand tour. But riders and DSs alike will be wanting to win not just for the pleasure and satisfaction but increasingly, for the points. Expect race tactics to modify, as teams fight for the scraps.